Perhaps you didn’t watch the long-running nighttime soap opera Dallas when it was a hit starting in 1978 on ABC. But if we throw in alternative energy and a land-conservancy deal, will you watch it now? The new Dallas, running on the TNT network, still revolves around oil, cattle, greed, family rivalries, and cliffhangers, all set on Texas’ infamous Southfork Ranch, but now one of (Who Shot…) J.R. Ewing’s kin is pushing “alternative energy” in the form of (very problematic) seabed methane and driving around cattle country in an electric Tesla Roadster.
According to the Globe and Mail, Christopher Ewing, the adopted son of J.R.’s brother Bobby, is “extracting gas frozen in underwater ice, prompting such memorable soap opera lines as ‘Do you think in time methane can be safely extracted from the seabed?’ Bobby, meanwhile, wants to turn Southfork into conservation parkland, just as John Ross, J.R.'s devious kin, has found a two-million barrel reserve right on the ranch. It's good environmentalism versus evil, gluttonous oil as John Ross and his girlfriend Elena make out, their faces slick with oil from a gushing rig that also sets the riggers fistbumping.”
Despite lines like “I know that I can make Ewing Alternative Energies the next Exxon,” the New York Times isn’t impressed: "This version is palely faithful to the original without any of its seditious zest," writes critic Alessandra Stanley. ”In 1978 the Texas economy was booming, while the rest of the country was still struggling. Rich Texans were loud, proud, vulgar, exotic and extravagant. (The Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog that year offered a $600 all-chocolate Monopoly game.) There is still plenty of money in Texas, but attention, and wasteful extravagance, have shifted elsewhere, to Internet moguls, billionaires, Wall Street bond traders and Russian tycoons. They are the ones buying Park Avenue mansions, basketball teams and art. Texans used to be big hat; now they are old hat. So, unfortunately, is Dallas.”
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”